In so many ways, communication has never been easier than in this era of technology. We walk around with smartphones in our pockets that are connected to our emails, our social media, and our instant messaging apps. With the click of a button we can not just talk to people on the other side of the world, but see them. We can hold in-depth meetings seamlessly over laptops, computers, and cellphones, without ever needing to be in the same room together.
And yet, as easy as it is to communicate, it’s never been more difficult to connect. Between back-to-back meetings, a constant inpouring of emails and messages, and endless phone calls, finding the time to have meaningful conversations with the people you work with is an ever-growing challenge. But there are ways that you, as a business, can meet this challenge head-on. And one of them is helping your teams to use the right channels for communication.
You see, no two ways of communicating are equal. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. When your teams understand the benefits and downfalls of each communication channel, they will be better placed to not just talk to each other (and with your clients) more effectively, but to form better bonds and connections and find the time for more meaningful conversations.
Where Does Solid Systems Come Into the Picture?
As a Managed IT Services provider, not only can we help you to implement the right tools for connecting to colleagues and clients, and ensure that your teams have access to all the channels of communication that they need. We believe in building up, as well as supporting, your business.
Whether your teams are working remotely, in the office, or are embracing a hybrid work environment, you want to ensure that your humans are supported in everything that they do. Whether it’s using Microsoft 365 in their everyday work, connecting to your network and keeping your data secure, or efficiently communicating over Microsoft Teams or Cloud PBX, we’re here to assist in any way that we can.
Finding the Right Channels For Communication
There are plenty of options out there for your teams to communicate in effective and efficient ways. But with so many options comes confusion. Which is the right channel to be used for a specific type of communication? Should every meeting be over a video call, for example? When should your teams be using WhatsApp, and when should they use Microsoft Teams?
Let’s look at some of the different channels of communication available to your teams, and what the pros and cons are for each of them.
Meeting in Person
Advantages: A most human way to connect with each other
Disadvantages: Not always possible and not the most efficient
With all of the technology in the world at your fingertips, there is still nothing that comes close to sitting in front of another person, in the flesh, and talking to one another. I experience it every time I meet clients or team members and sit across from them. We’ll have to set an hour aside to talk about business, discuss a situation, to work on a technology plan. And 50 minutes into the meeting we won’t have even started talking about work yet, because we’ve been so busy catching up, connecting with each other. And I love it! It’s the human side of our business coming to the fore.
But as much as meeting in person boosts connection with other people, it’s not always possible, and it’s not always the best solution. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Because so much time is spent connecting, it’s not the most efficient way to communicate, particularly when there’s an issue that might need to be discussed. Not to mention the fact that finding time in one busy schedule is a mission, but finding time in two busy schedules can often feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
So, when it comes to human connection, there’s nothing better than meeting in person. But when it comes to getting down to business, there are better ways to communicate the issues at hand.
Video Meetings and Video Calls
Advantages: Able to connect with multiple people around the world in a human way
Disadvantages: Risk of burnout and no time to get work done
I like to think of video calls as the next best thing to meet in person. You still get to see the person (or people) you’re talking to. And when it comes to communication, seeing each other is important. You get to witness the emotions that people are going through – their excitement, their concern, their reluctance, and you get the opportunity to address them right there and then. Plus, video calls don’t rely on two or more people being in the same city. You can have a conversation with someone on the other side of the world, and it’s almost as effective as sitting across the table from them. Better yet, you can have meetings with multiple people across different time zones.
But, while video calls do address one of the issues that in-person meetings struggle with – availability – it is still not necessarily the best way to communicate at all times. There is the opportunity for connection, but not every call needs to be about connection. Sometimes you simply need to get things done. And when you’ve got video calls scheduled back-to-back every weekday, there’s simply no time to work on everything that has been discussed in those calls. Plus, video meetings take time – to plan and schedule, to attend, and review afterward for plans of action. Digital burnout is a very real risk, and when you’re sitting in front of a screen all day in meeting after meeting, that risk quickly becomes a reality.
Voice Meetings and Phone Calls
Advantages: Quick, efficient, and effective way of communicating while still maintaining a personal touch
Disadvantages: Difficult to gauge reactions, tricky to keep track of actions that need to be taken, and not always convenient for all involved
Just because you can have a video call, doesn’t mean that you always need to. When it comes to getting information across quickly and efficiently, while still maintaining that personal touch, phone calls and voice meetings are the way to go. They don’t need to be planned well in advance, and they don’t take up as much bandwidth as video calls.
And, yes, I do mean ‘bandwidth’ in more ways than one. Because even with fibre becoming a staple in many homes around South Africa, there are areas (both in Africa and around the world) that don’t have good connectivity available to them. And there is little more frustrating than trying to conduct a video call when one or more of the attendees has a poor signal. Plus, voice calls can be short, sweet, and to the point. They don’t take as much time to organise – you can simply pick up the phone when you’ve got something to say – and they don’t take as much time out of your busy schedule. You can have a quick call and carry on with your work, rather than having to set aside anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour for a video call.
This being said, phone calls and voice meetings do have their own downside. It can be difficult to gauge how the person on the other end of the line is reacting to what you’re saying, for example, when you can’t see their expressions. It can also be more difficult to keep track of everything that’s said in a phone call, particularly if it wasn’t scheduled beforehand. This makes it easy to lose track of tasks that may be assigned or steps that need to be taken by either party. And last, but definitely not least, just because a phone call is convenient for you to make, doesn’t mean it’s convenient for the person you’re calling to receive. While video calls and meetings often involve setting up specific times for a call, voice calls tend to happen on the fly and can be disruptive, resulting in frustration if the person you’re calling doesn’t have the time to hear what you need to say.
Microsoft Teams Messages and Channels
Advantages: Instant communication with both individuals and entire teams, great for company culture, and promotes a healthy work-life balance
Disadvantages: Not the right channel for time-sensitive situations, and easy for messages to fall through the cracks or go unanswered
I like to think that instant messages are the perfect form of quick communication between teams and team members. Sending off a message, checking on the status of a ticket or project, and just generally keeping in touch with one another has never been simpler than with Microsoft Teams. You can talk to individuals via the chat functionality, or to entire teams through channels. This also makes Teams the perfect tool for promoting and boosting company culture, since it’s an easy space for teams to connect on both work projects and on a personal level. And one of the best things about it is that it’s easy to switch off outside of working hours, which makes it particularly handy for teams who work on different shifts.
If you have something work-related that needs to be relayed to one of your team members, sending an IM is as simple as writing an email, but comes with far more convenience. You can see when the person you’re messaging is online or offline, when they’re busy, in a meeting, or even when they’re busy typing out a response. Because it all happens in real-time, communication becomes far quicker, and this makes it easier to get things done. But there is also less pressure on the part of the person receiving the communication – if it’s outside of their working hours, they can pick up on the message when their shift begins, and take action as necessary. And this falls on both the pro and the con side for the channel’s effectiveness.
You see, on the pro side, messaging via Teams rather than insisting on video or voice calls can reduce burnout and allow for a healthier work-life balance. But, on the other hand, the reduced urgency makes it less than ideal for addressing time-sensitive issues. If the person you need to contact isn’t online when you need them, and the matter at hand needs to be dealt with as soon as possible, then you’re going to have better luck resorting to a phone call or WhatsApp message. It’s great for communicating in general and keeping connected to one another, but it can also be all too easy for messages to get lost and go unanswered.
Keep your call center connected, wherever your teams maybe!
Advantages: A great communication tool for urgent situations
Disadvantages: Can be intrusive and contribute to burnout when not used correctly
WhatsApp has become the go-to app for communication. Remember the days when you used to send SMSes and wait for eons for replies to come through? These days, the only time I get an SMS or text message is when someone’s sending me spam or a one-time pin.
WhatsApp has all of the advantages of Teams’ chat functionality, with one added pro (or con, depending on how you look at it). Urgency. When you send an MS Teams message to someone, if it’s outside of their working hours, they can ignore it. They can shut Teams down on their laptop or turn off notifications on their phone, and ensure that the messages only come through when they start up their machine in the morning.
With WhatsApp messages, there’s more of a sense of urgency. Messages are delivered directly to the person’s phone, regardless of what their time zone or working hours might be. And when used correctly, this can be a positive thing. If the messages that you are sending are urgent and are sent to the right people, then they can see potentially disastrous situations (like a data breach, for example) being dealt with in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
The problem comes in when messages that aren’t urgent, that don’t need to be dealt with right away, or that should be sent to someone else within the team, are sent over WhatsApp. Rather than reducing burnout, as Microsoft Teams does, this can add to work-related stress, leading to a sense that there’s no respite from the job, even after hours. The result will either be frustration, or a tendency for employees to mute work WhatsApp groups or work colleagues, rendering the advantage of the platforms’ urgency moot.
Advantages: Perfect for summarising and recapping
Disadvantages: Impersonal, insecure, and too easy to get lost in the multitudes of emails people get every day
Finally, we come to what is probably the most common communication tool in the world. And probably the least effective.
Don’t get me wrong, emails have their place in the working world. They are essential for communication and invaluable for conducting business. But when you consider that the average person receives over 100 emails every single day, most of which are marketing, spam, or invoices that need to be paid, you’ll come to realise that when it comes to forming a connection with another person, email is simply not the way to do it. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that email is an inherently insecure way of communicating. It was never designed to be as popular as it has become, and it’s all too easy for email addresses to be spoofed or hacked. You have to be exceptionally careful about the content of the emails that you send to ensure your own data protection and that of your clients.
Where emails are useful is in summarising things that have already been saying. That video meeting that you scheduled for this afternoon? Drop all the attendees an email, letting them know what you expect to discuss. And another mail afterward, if you like, with the points that were raised. That phone call that you had with a client? Drop them a mail afterward, reminding them of what you spoke about.
Emails are fantastic for summarising, recapping, and keeping track of tasks and actions that have been taken or need to be done. But when it comes to communicating, connecting with other humans, building company culture, or embracing the human side of your business, turn to other forms of communication instead.
So What Is The Best Channel For Communication?
I’ve gone through the pros and cons for each of these, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s plenty to take into consideration. No channel is perfect for every instance. Meeting in person is the best possible solution for forming a connection with another human, for example, but that’s not always what you need. When it comes to an emergency, waiting hours or days on end for an in-person meeting to be scheduled is simply not the best plan of action.
When it boils down to it, you need to formulate a plan for the best way to communicate in specific situations. And it’s not always going to be one channel or the other scenario. Sometimes a situation will require multiple channels of communication to ensure that it’s handled effectively. This is where video meetings, phone calls, instant messages, and emails come together to form a cohesive communication strategy that ensures that all bases are covered as effectively and efficiently as possible.